Benfield managed to get back to winning ways in the EBAC Northern League over the weekend, following a solid 3-1 win over Ryhope CW.
Saturday’s game did also mark the debut of former West Allotment Celtic striker Abubaker Salim, and he did not hang around when it came to making a good first impression on the Benfield faithful.
The major moments of the first fifteen minutes were all Benfield, with Cyril Giraud and Paul Brayson continuing to link up in the final third and Abu Salim exhibiting his fantastic pace and confidence with the ball at his feet.
Benfield continued their goalscoring efforts in the Ryhope final third, with Reece Noble supplying Cyril Giraud neatly from a free-kick, but the Ryhope defenders continued to charge the Benfield forward down, preventing him from scoring.
The first major chance in front of goal for Benfield came in the 14th minute, when a looping cross from Cyril Giraud found Brayson at the back post, but the knockback was eventually cleared to safety from inside the Ryhope six yard box. Nevertheless, it was a sign of things to come in the remainder of the first half.
The visitors’ first chance of the game came in the 21st minute, with a cross into the box being fired towards the Lions goal, and eventually being cleared by Joe Robson.
For the next few minutes, Ryhope continued to mount some pressure, with the visitors’ skipper curling a free kick into the 18 yard box that was easily saved by Andy Grainger.
Benfield managed to re-establish their dominance in the game immediately with Abu Salim being in and amongst it once again, after a long ball played him in over the top, but his effort was strayed just wide.
The Lions managed to get their first reward in the 26th minute, when the ball was played to Cyril Giraud from 18 yards out, and the Frenchman slotted the ball past the Ryhope keeper into the bottom corner of the visitors’ net. It was the beginning of a deserved lead for the Lions.
For the next ten minutes, Ryhope tried to respond in the best possible way, and they had two big attempts to bring the game level, however neither were successful.
The Lions continued to exert their dominance on the game, with Cyril Giraud breaking from deep inside the Ryhope half and firing an effort at goal that was blocked by a Ryhope defender, the follow-up being narrowly missed by Abu Salim.
Two minutes later, the home side doubled their lead. This time, it was the turn of the debutant Abu Salim, with a fine solo effort that turned the Ryhope defender inside out before sliding the ball under the goalkeeper.
It was then just two minutes after the second goal that the Lions seemed to put the game out of sight. The third goal came from Joe Robson, who converted from close range to give the hosts a sizeable lead.
The excitement of the first half still wasn’t over either, as one of the last actions of the first half saw the visitors get one back just before the break. Nevertheless, the Lions seemed to go into half time with a comfortable grasp on proceedings at Sam Smith’s Park.
As the second half got underway, a tactical change saw Matty Parker being replaced by Brad Varga.
Moments later, Richie Slaughter nearly made it four, as his shot from a tight angle whizzed across the face of goal.
The next ten minutes of the second half saw the visitors look to halve the goal deficit and they managed to dominate possession for the large part of the period, however no clear-cut chances were taken. The best chance that was squandered by the visitors came in the 57th minute, as the ball was fizzled in from the right flank, only for the Ryhope striker to guide his header wide of the mark.
The last half an hour of the tie was very evenly matched, with both sides having big chances. The Lions were put under pressure in the 64th minute, when a misjudgement from Andy Grainger left Joe Robson in charge of clearing the ball from the line.
Cyril Giraud and Paul Brayson continued to exhibit their attacking prowess in the Ryhope penalty area in the final 20 minutes, but the Ryhope keeper had other ideas, pulling out some fantastic stops to the Benfield strikers’ shots. Moments later at the other end, Mark Turnbull pulled off a stunning last-ditch challenge to deny the visitors’ striker, who was one-on-one with Andy Grainger.
The remaining substitutions for Benfield came moments later, with Rui Martins replacing Cyril Giraud, and Dan O’Reilly replacing debutant Abu Salim, who had completed a fantastic debut for the Lions.
The final moments of the game were characterized by a route-one approach from the visitors in order to spark a late comeback, however it was too little too late as the final whistle blew, and Benfield ran out victorious. A result and performance that Stu Elliott and Benfield fans alike will be very pleased about, and three big points secured for the Lions.
Benfield play Thornaby in the EBAC Northern League away from home on Wednesday, and return to Sam Smith’s Park on Saturday against Stockton Town. We look forward to seeing you there!
MOTM: Cyril Giraud